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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (Feb 15 – 18)

Tuesday — This week, “our aim is to fully awaken our heart and mind, not just for our own greater well-being but also to bring benefit, solace, and wisdom to other living beings. What motivation could tap that?” (Thank you Pema Chodron)
In other words, striving for awakening, empathy and compassion for all, knowing that we are connected, and no one of us is on this journey alone.
Even in (and maybe especially in) our brokenness.

In a way, I was raised on this stuff. Well, at least in part. You know, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (from The Psalms).  This is, undeniable hope.  
And yet, the “translation” (in my church tradition) was crystal clear: God loves the broken, only if it is in the process of being tidied, or cleaned up, or touched up, or renovated.
The paradigm is echoed in our culture, where the concept of brokenness wrecks havoc with the picture in our mind of an unspoiled life. So, we frantically try to fix it, or dismiss it or hide it. Blemished beauty has no place here.
Which begs the question: What do we do with our brokenness?  
Henri Nouwen suggests that we need to “embrace it.”   
Seriously? 
But here’s the deal: because we are beloved of God, we can dare to embrace and befriend our own brokenness; and in befriending, to really look at it: “Yes, I am hurting. Yes, I am wounded. Yes, it is painful. And as one loved in my brokenness, I no longer need be afraid.”

Conceptually, I get it.
But how do I have to invite my brokenness into my life?
Or, how do I embrace it (as Mary Oliver says, “row toward the embattlement”)?
This is certain:  Embracing the brokenness that affects us all may not carry us toward safety, but most surely toward wholeheartedness.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel’s reminder that when I am not grounded, “I believe that whatever I seek in miracles, the sacred, intervention of the divine is not in a place where I am now–in a place other than this moment. They have this in common: we don’t look at the world around us as places where God lives.”
The serenity calms me, and I feel at home, even with the parts of me that are still unresolved and broken.

Wednesday — In our culture, the concept of brokenness wreaks havoc with the picture in our mind of an unspoiled life.  And we frantically try to fix it, or dismiss it or hide it.  Blemished beauty has no place here.
So.  What do we do with our brokenness?
Henri Nouwen suggests that we need to “embrace it.”  Because we are beloved of God, we have to dare to embrace it, to befriend our own brokenness and to really look at it. “Yes, I am hurting. Yes, I am wounded. Yes, it is painful. And… I don’t have to be afraid.”
Conceptually, I get it.
But how do I invite my brokenness into my life? How do I embrace it (or as Mary Oliver says, “row toward the embattlement”)?
This is certain: Embracing the brokenness that affects us all may not carry us toward safety, but most surely toward wholeheartedness… yes, toward salvation.  

I hope you’ve seen the movie Won’t you be my neighbor. When I watch it, I cry, the good kind that happens whenever I witness kindness and grace.
“What changes the world,” Mr. Rogers says, “the only thing that can ever change the world is when somebody gets the idea that love can abound. And can be shared.”
Well… as they say in the Wizard of Oz, “This isn’t Kansas anymore.” We’re no longer in Sunday School.  And the spirit of God is no nesting dove.  Where God’s spirit is, there is in all probability, chaos.  We need to understand that about the spirit in our lives.  Sometimes the chaos is called to order as it was in the beginning… other times our need for complacency erupts into chaotic confusion (just like Pentecost), unraveling everything.
It’s not easy, because I have orchestrated my world–all my ducks so carefully and neatly in a row.
And then… life happens.
Here’s the deal: when we acknowledge the broken places, where love can abound, there is an open space, a place for gestation and receptivity (what the Japanese call “hollowness” to the divine).
–These are the times (albeit “nonproductive”) when new things are hatching and being born in the darkness… if only we do not panic.
–These are the times when we will learn compassion (what in Buddhism is called bodhicitta, the awakened heart).
–These are the times when the unbearably wounded will themselves emerge as healers and leaders.
–These are the times when we know that there is a place from which we can truly and wholeheartedly, give of ourselves. And spill light to those around us.

Thursday — When we acknowledge the broken places, there is an open space, a place for gestation and receptivity (what the Japanese call “hollowness” to the divine).
These are the times (albeit “nonproductive”) when new things are hatching and being born in the darkness… if only we do not panic.
These are the times when we will learn compassion (what in Buddhism is called bodhicitta, the awakened heart). 

So. What does that look like? (It’s always curious to me that we want to know the script.)
Rembrandt painted the picture of the prodigal son between 1665 and 1667, at the end of his life.  As a young painter, he was popular in Amsterdam and successful with commissions to do portraits of all the important people of his day.  He was known as arrogant and argumentative, but he participated in the circles of the very rich in society. Gradually, however, his life began to deteriorate:
First he lost a son,
Then he lost his first daughter,
Then he lost his second daughter,
Then he lost his wife
Then the woman he lived with, ended up in a mental hospital,
Then he married a second woman, who died,
Then he lost all his money and fame, and
Just before he himself died, his son Titus died.
As he lived his overwhelming losses and died many personal deaths, Rembrandt could have become a most bitter, angry, resentful person. Instead he became the one who was finally able to paint one of the most intimate paintings of all time. (from Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son)
When Vincent van Gogh saw this painting he said, “You can only paint this painting when you have died many deaths.”

No, there is no “script” for this.
And no, I cannot relate to brokenness that is this devastating.
But then, I can tell myself, I’m no Rembrandt.

So. How do I have to invite my brokenness into my life?
How do I embrace it (as Mary Oliver says, “row toward the embattlement”)?
This is certain:  Embracing the brokenness that affects us all may not carry us toward safety, but most surely toward wholeheartedness.
We may not see it, but these are the times when the unbearably wounded will themselves emerge as healers and leaders.
Yes. These are the times when we know that there is a place from which we can truly and wholeheartedly, give of ourselves. And spill light to those around us.

Friday — In Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote that “he allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
What a gift. And here’s the deal: Rebirth is not just for getting my act together, or punching a ticket for eternity, but a reclamation of a part of me that has been buried or lost or forgotten. 
There is no doubt that we are living in a time of rebirth, when life invites us (maybe even obliges us) to give birth to ourselves again. With all due respect to the church of my youth, I have been born again and again and again, and each time, I have found a life and a world to love with all my heart.
Because there are times when I forget. That the light—of compassion and empathy and kindheartedness and gratitude (humanity)—spills from ordinary lives, in ordinary moments, one gesture at a time. One moment of wonder at a time. One moment of being fully alive, fully awake, fully present, at a time. (And yes, even in moments tainted by crisis and tragedy… and brokenness… as each ordinary moment is the hiding place for the holy.) 

In rebirth, we draw from the well of compassion. Beginning with self-compassion.
We wake up to the affirmation that “what lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

This is not easy. Birth never is. But “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts,” Henri Nouwen writes, “to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
Tonight the sunset silhouettes the Tucson mountains, west of Tucson. The demarcation of the mountains and the sky is unmistakable, vivid, and soothing, beauty that slows the breathing, offering the permission to pause and set down our heavy load.

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.
One day I shall dig my nails into the earth,
or bury my face in the pillow,
or stretch myself taut,
or raise my hands to the sky and want,
more than all the world, your return.
Mary Jean Iron

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